It’s not very often that the action at Daytona gets overshadowed. Let’s face it, the restrictor plate racing that has occurred this season has been what it usually is, lots of calm action in the beginning and then chaos at the end.
Saturday night, Tony Stewart was the one that survived and thrilled the audience at the track and watching on TNT to get his third win of the season, and his fourth win in the summertime event. It was a great night for the Stewart-Haas organization. However, the main story of the weekend happened just mere hours before the green flag ever waved.
Just before I was set to cohost my bi-weekly podcast, Lugnuts and Horsepower on BlogTalkRadio.com, me and my cohosts suddenly had our Twitter accounts blow up like fireworks on the 4th of July.
Just before our 6 p.m. start time, NASCAR announced that Penske driver A.J. Allmendinger, who drives the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, was temporarily suspended. The reasoning…he failed a random drug test the week prior at Kentucky.
Now, things got interesting, as Penske had to summon another driver to race the car that Allmendinger qualified 8th for the race. He had his director call their Nationwide driver, Sam Hornish, who was doing a segment on SPEED and couldn’t pick up the call on live television. Once the segment ended, he was slated to do a taped segment for the next day. That all changed as he was to make the trip to Daytona.
But wait, shouldn’t he be there? Turns out he flew home to Charlotte and was now in a race just to make it to the track. Hornish was picked up, while another employee got a fire suit, and both met at the airport. Penske’s private jet flew Hornish to the track, where he was met with a police escort, and rushed to the car.
Hornish made it to the line-up as the invocation was given, and literally had to jump in a car that he never tested, nor sat in. It was a whirlwind day for the No. 22 team, but the real story was the driver.
This is the second time since the new substance abuse policy was established that a Sprint Cup driver was suspended for failing a test. I was in Darlington three years ago when NASCAR announced that Jeremy Mayfield failed his test from the week before, and that set off a series of events no one would forget. Mayfield fought the findings, saying prescription and allergy medication were the reasons he failed. Turns out, what Mayfield had in his system was methamphetamines. Mayfield then sued the sanctioning body, and temporarily had his suspension lifted.
But, soon it was revoked and his lawsuits eventually didn’t go in his favor or were thrown out. Since then, he’s had to auction off his property and assets, as his NASCAR career has come to an end.
The other name that comes to mind in NASCAR with this policy is former Nationwide driver Shane Hmiel. Back in the original policy, which was a three-strike rule, Hmiel first was suspended for 30 days before he could return to the sport, where he would then have more tests done, and on a regular basis. He failed a second time, and then was suspended for a longer period of time, and had to be tested even more than before.
Finally, he ended up failing a third test. The third strike was enough, and NASCAR decided to drop the hammer and gave Hmiel a lifetime ban from NASCAR. Hmiel now races in the ASA series.
There’s no sense in speculating what happened with Allmendinger, because all speculation does is turn out to be bad news or unconfirmed rumors. NASCAR is following protocol in the matter, and now Allmendinger has two options. First, since his “A” sample tested positive, he can request for his “B” sample to be tested within 72 hours of his suspension, and he will be present to see how it is done and see the results first hand. His other option is to decline the second sample be tested.
Should he choose option two, in essence Allmendinger will accept guilt and his suspension will go from temporary to indefinite. If Allmendinger goes that route, the path to being reinstated within NASCAR will include either treatment or further medical evaluation until he is cleared.
This saga is still developing, and more details will surely become available down the line. For now, at least for Allmendinger, it’s a waiting game to see where to go from here.
RESULTS: 1-Stewart 2-Burton 3-Kenseth 4-Logano 5-Newman 6-Edwards 7-Kahne 8-Keselowski 9-Waltrip 10-Labonte
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Gordon 15-Earnhardt Jr. 21-Biffle 23-Harvick 24-Kyle Busch 36-Johnson
CAUTIONS: 6 for 23 laps. Lap 82-85 (#22 accident BS), 92-96 (#21, 47, 43, 51, 11, 42 accident T2), 125-130 (#48, 24, 55, 20, 50, 78, 56 accident-T4), 146-148 (#2 spin T2), 154-158 (#11, 42, 21, 9, 15, 24, 18, 10, 36, 38, 13, 27, 34, 56 accident Tri-Oval), 160-160 (#29, 43, 16, 36, 18, 34, 5, 93, 88, 78, 99, 17, 27, 32, 1 accident-T4).
LEAD CHANGES: 12 among 9 drivers. Kenseth 1-41, Ragan 42, Wise 43-45, Truex Jr 46-47, Biffle 48-82, Mears 83, Kenseth 84-123, Kyle busch 124-126, Gilliland 127, Kyle Busch 128-130, Stewart 131-151, Kenseth 152-159, Stewart 160.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 32 Mins, 14 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 157.653 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: Under Caution
POINT STANDINGS/WILD CARDS: 1. Kenseth, 676 points; 2. Earnhardt Jr, -25; 3. Biffle, -44; 4. Johnson, -58; 5. Stewart, -84; 6. Harvick, -90; 7. Hamlin, -92; 8. Truex Jr, -92; 9. Keselowski, -103; 10. Bowyer, -104. WC 1-Kyle Busch (12th, 1 win), WC 2-Joey Logano (14th, 1 win)